We have been staying at the Istituto San Lodovico, a convent and former women’s school connected to the church of San Lodovico. Today it is run by the Sisters of Compagnia di Maria of Our Lady Santa Giovanna di Lestonnac (Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac) as a nursery school and guest house.
A large iron gate opens onto a peaceful courtyard with a rose garden.
Entering the convent, our room is reached via a stairway that continually enchants me as the light shifts and changes throughout the day.
(I stop here to take pictures at some point almost every day.)
The light throughout the convent is enchanting.
It’s a lovely place to shoot. . . a wonderful simple place to live.
Meals are served in a bright and airy room where light streams through high windows and tasty homemade lunches are delivered to our table.
(We thought we would be sharing our breakfasts with a group of papal scholars, but they turned out to be poplar scholars and we had to teach them to bus their dishes. They provided us with plenty to speculate about and a few good laughs.)
We edit our photos in the “photo chapel” under brightly painted ceilings.
It’s easy to forget the city is just beyond the shuttered windows.
In the evening we gather in a cozy meeting space dubbed the “screening room” to review the day’s work. (Were we allowed to bring a bottle of wine, it would definitely be the best part of the day, but even so, it’s wonderful to stop for awhile and see everyone’s best shots from the day and reflect a not only on our work, but on the day itself.)
Another great space is the open, covered rooftop patio around the corner from our room. It provides beautiful views of the city, but we quickly learned to watch that no one locks us up there! (Thanks for the lesson, Chris!)
There is also another floor above our room, an open space that houses the laundry room. Despite the modern appliances, it is pretty rustic.
So this is where I’ve been living this week, what I’ve been seeing as I go about my day.
But today Sister Giovanna has a special treat for us: a tour of the spaces below and behind the public areas we’ve been using.
In some ways, it’s not so different from being in any really old basement. . .
. . .except, of course, for the ancient symbols scratched in the walls, the odd, inexplicable spaces carved into the soft stone, and the Etruscan pottery fragments.
Sister Giovanna guides us through the dark spaces (taking away the flashlight she gave us when we don’t aim it in the right spot and using it herself) , explaining what we are seeing in long paragraphs of carefully paced Italian, confident that we understand even as Maury struggles to translate for us. We understand enough.
Back above ground, we are allowed into a back room with lovely frescoes in varying stages of preservation and decay.
Some have decayed almost beyond recognition. . .
This structure must have changed greatly over time – walls cut in at odd angles, slice through frescoes, create seemingly unusable spaces. I wish I understood the story they tell.